If the question is, do I enjoy Ilia Belorukov’s I Did What Was Possible to Quiet Us, the answer is no…and yes. In roughly equal measure. Belorukov’s work here is in an acousmatic style. This approach, kind of an offshoot of musique concrète, centers on the use of sounds that are not readily identifiable, or which are not typically considered as a musical instrument per se. Often in performance, the sources remain hidden from the audience. The point is to drive the listener to focus on the quality of the sound rather than what is making it. Okay, so let’s put the heady music theory stuff aside for a moment. This short release opens with various crackling, buzzing, whatever‘ing noises that immediately grate on me and make me not want to listen. Oh, great, I think, it’s time for some inaccessible experimental music. And then, being a reviewer, I listen, and I find that these unpleasant noises give way to something deeper and quieter and I’m in a space with soft, moving drones and the edges of the flow are still flecked with these imperfect little noises for texture but I am very much within the sound. In this regard, the first several minutes of each piece can be a bit of an endurance test, but it also heightens each little metamorphosis the composer pulls off. It works best in the three longer pieces on the release, “Art Park” and the two parts of the title track. “Art Park” works its way into a shimmering dronescape that’s surprisingly bright and warm. Part I of “I Did…” will make you sit through a minute or so of minimalist thought, with just this…well, acousmatically speaking, I don’t know what it is, but it’s a bit of a water drop on your forehead for sixty seconds. New sounds come in to build around it, and soon enough give way to a fantastically beautiful ambient-style drift. As the piece flows into its second part, a new round of intruding sounds (think metallic woodpecker) comes at you, but are once again subsumed into a much more palatable flow.
I Did What Was Possible to Quiet Us became a pleasant surprise for me, and a musical journey I’ve enjoyed retaking as my understanding of it improved. Yes, I like it more the further Belorukov moves away from the more assertively acousmatic side of the equation, but as I’ve listened more I’ve come to appreciate how he manipulates the grating sounds and uses them to affect not just the dynamic of each piece, but my role as the audience as well. This is well worth digging into—just make sure you dig past the initial noise if that’s not your thing.
Available from Spectropol.